Making Numbers Meaningful

Numbers lie at the heart of modern life, yet they are routinely misunderstood. The Making Numbers Meaningful project seeks to make numerical communication more accessible.


The project studies numerical communication across multiple different modalities and communication channels, including via the use of numbers, graphs, language, and gestures.

Numbers lie at the heart of many domains of human life, yet they are often misunderstood. Large sections of society experience some form of innumeracy, the lack of ability to understand and use numbers. This creates immense societal costs, with individuals making misinformed decisions about health risks or being swayed to vote for political parties by misleadingly presented statistics. The correct interpretation of numerical information critically depends on how it is presented via numbers, language, and graphs. The proposed project shifts the burden of innumeracy from the consumer to the producer of numerical communication.

The Making Numbers Meaningful project is an UKRI funded Future Leader Fellowship granted to Dr Bodo Winter. The key novelty of the seven-year project is to take the analysis of numerical communication out of the lab and into the real world, performing the largest study so-far on what people actually do with numbers in various communicative contexts. This establishes how often numerical communication is biased, misleading, or non-transparent in a variety of naturally occurring conditions, and it enables the most frequent sources of miscommunication to be isolated. The project then takes the insights generated from looking at numerical communication “in the wild” back into the lab to assess which of the commonly attested communicative strategies most accurately and most easily convey number concepts. The proposed research is also the first of its kind to look at numerical communication across different communication channels, including the use of numbers, linguistic expressions such as “few” and “many”, graphs, and even nonverbal communication.

Research team


Currently hiring

The project is currently hiring two post-doctoral researchers

Supported by:

UKRI: UK Research and Innovation